How long did it take for Japanese words to "pop out" in screen like English/Native Language?

My apologies if the title is a bit gibberish. I am not sure how to properly express it. Let me explain it with an example. When I am reading something on my computer, words simply “pop out” in the screen. I have to physically try not to read. Seeing a text and registering the words/structure is almost instantaneous.

However, in case of Japanese, it still looks like a complete illegible set of glyphs. When I try to read an article in Famitsu, or browse Steam reviews, I simply cannot “automatically comprehend” the content. I have to physically try to focus and read and only after that, I can understand what’s it about. This is true even in cases where I know every single words and grammar points inside a text.

I am assuming this will take some time, but if you have reached that level, then how long did it take you? I am on my 3rd year currently, I have finished all the 常用漢字 and around 500+ other kanjis I have mined from various contents. I love reading, so I am spending like 2~3 hours a day, reading various novels, however, exclusively on Kindle.


I think I understand what you’re talking about.

For text to be within my field of view and I have to put in effort to not comprehend it took probably around 5000 hours if I had to guess. I had read quite a few books, visual novels, and manga up until that point. Took quite awhile, but I’m not sure how much of it is actually level dependent. Im sure there are some people who claim the words pop out to them before they can even read a book, so answers to this question will probably change more depending on how the reader interprets it.


Taht’s bsaucee wehn you’re fulent in a lagugane you sotp reaidng idiunivdal lettres, you hvae a srot of photgraphioc mrmoey taht iadiemmelty trslaatnes the “shpae” of a wrod itno its mneanig.

That’s why you can probably read the completely mangled text above. It’s supposed to read:

That’s because when you’re fluent in a language you stop reading individual letters, you have a sort of photographic memory that immediately translate the “shape” of a word into its meaning.

When you learn a foreign language you have to relearn this, and it takes even longer when the language uses a completely different writing system such as Japanese.

I’m sure that if you read 2~3 hours a day, you already can parse at a glance common kanji/words that crop up all the time, as well as common kana constructs (です、ます、ません…). But it’s not a binary thing, for instance I’ve been studying Russian for almost 4 years and I feel like I’m at the point where the words “spring” to me for the most part when I read them when I read a newspaper but not when I read Dostoevsky. And even when I read the newspaper sometimes I’ll encounter a rarer word and my reading will “stumble” and I’ll have to focus on a given word for like half a second to parse it fully.

If you know all joyo kanji + 500 I would be very surprised if kanji knowledge was the issue unless you’re reading super hard content, at this point it’s just practice, practice practice and slowly you’ll get there.

I’d also advise looking for simpler content if you want to practice reading speed, story-driven videogames are often a good source for me because they generally have a lot of text but it’s mostly dialogue using day to day vocab and constructions instead of bookish language. Quantity over quality if you will, but it’s a good drill.


I doubt it’s boolean anyway. Not that you wake up one morning and be like :“I now can read Japanese without effort”

But I agree it probably takes years, considering the fact that for your native language it probably took you at least the elementary school span of time, being constantly expose to your language to come at a level where you can read comfortably.

And even so, there will always be a big difference between kids who read lots of books and their comrade who do not bother.

Issues I think might affect this feeling of words not poping out in Japanese is that there is no spacing and vertical writing that don’t feel natural.


Not quite, the “like english/native language” level, but reading sort of consistently for the past 6-ish months (at least a couple of pages of manga most days) allows me to sort of understand what a not too complex sentence is trying to say without having to mentally translate it, which speeds up reading quite a bit, when only the unknown words and the long sentences remain. If you read most every day, eventually it will happen.


honestly I dont like those ‘wall of text / visual pollution’ japanese style in magazines.

I even tried to read early editions of famitsu but I got fedup with its style.

To start grasping the idea of fluency in reading I prefer to stick with small articles that I can see a paragraph or even twitter, 1 or 2 lines of text is small just to get my brain used to the language.


Yes, I agree with this. I can’t give you a count in hours, but I can give you a count in books (258). If I, for instance, flip quickly through a book in Japanese, I naturally read a few words where my gaze falls on each page; but to read more than just those few words I have to actively look along the line of text. On the other hand, in English doing the same I read entire phrases and sentences “at once” without consciously scanning along lines of text. I can also do that with French, which I have read much less of than Japanese, so I think this is a writing-system thing rather than a foreign language thing.


I remember I used to look at Japanese text on Twitter and it looked like hieroglyphics. I would instantly go for the translate button but then stop myself and I’d have to tell myself that “Wait I can read this though”.
I’d literally have to switch a flip in my brain to start reading and it turns out I actually did know everything in the tweet.

At the very least, I don’t experience the hieroglyphs feeling anymore. Kana always sticks out to me, and some kanji are instantly recognizable. There are still plenty kanji I need to think about though. This is obviously better than before, but not even close to my English reading. TBH, that’s a goal that I can’t even imagine when I can achieve. It’s still something to be treated as an overarching goal, and I am just focusing on the smaller goals to keep improving. I’ll just have to trust I’ll get there someday.


Hey, bsaucee. Miahcel hree.






These words pop out quickly to me. There are some more, too, and I feel like this is something that has happened over time.

With reading in texts, if the book is top-down, right-to-left, certain words don’t ‘pop’ as much as I wish they would, which is why I don’t always enjoy reading those kinds of texts.

Just exposure. Learning languages is just like any other skill the more you practice, the more natural it becomes.

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I can kind of read kana without saying it out loud, but I hardly know what most of it means.

For me kanji are generally more instantly recognisable than kana words (I say for me, but I’m sure that’s probably universal once you know the kanji).

Seeing a sentence like:


In the first sentence, at a glance I instantly know it’s about the weather today, it’s going to be clear, and the high is 20°C. The only limit is how much my eyes can clearly see at once.

In the second, the only thing that instantly jumps out is てんき and 20℃です. I have to skim through it more and look at each kana to understand the rest.


…and the amazement once you realize you can acutally read and understand it just fine :flushed::heart_eyes::star_struck:


That is the exact stage that I am at - I have to force myself to slow down and work my way through the sentence, and then I realize how much of it I can actually read.

I’ve been studying Japanese for 4 years and I started reading pretty early in my studies. Not too many words are just popping out for me yet, but I agree with other posters here that describe the “chunking” phenomenon. There are definitely more and more words that I can read instantly. WaniKani has definitely been a key part of the process. Graded readers have helped a lot, too.


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